Thursday, November 26, 2009

Perfect Pie Crust

Sure, you're saying, "Why didn't you tell me this YESTERDAY? Before I spent 5 hours making pies?"

Ahem. Because I was doing that too, and didn't have time to tell you until now.


At least you still have Christmas. And we all know that pies are mandatory around the holiday season. Even if you just pass this information on, you'll have given a great gift to a potential perfect pie maker.

Let me whisper the secret words in your ear:

food processor, chill before baking, pre-baking with pie weights

Phooey, you say? I'll explain why.

1. Food processor (cuisinart): perfectly incorporated fats, no danger of over kneaded chewy crust, and this is what will help your results become a shattering, crisp, flaky, crust.

2. Chill before baking: Before even rolling out the dough, chill the crust for 30 minutes, at least. When the butter begins to melt is when you have a problem of less flaky crust. Working the dough right after making it increases your chances that the butter is melting right in your hands. The butter pieces should melt in the oven, leaving little pockets of gorgeousness.

3. Pre baking with pie weights.: MOST pies could use a little pre-baked crust. Usually you don't need to bake the crust all the way, just lightly browned and hot, hot, hot. This helps especially with custard pies because then the filling doesn't make the crust super soggy, and let's face it, a pumpkin or sweet potato filling doesn't need a soggy crust. The filling is so thick it practically keeps a pie crust from cooking in the oven. Put foil over the pie crust, into the pie crust, I should say, and press so lightly so that the sides and bottom is covered directly by the foil. Put uncooked beans (I use pinto) to weigh the foil down so that the crust doesn't get super poofy.

4. Optional: if you are making a custardy/fruity pie, you should pre bake for 20 minutes with the tin foil, then take the foil off and bake for 10 more minutes, then brush the crust with a little egg yolk, then back in the oven for 2 minutes to seal the deal. Then once you put the fruity stuff in, it's less soggy.

You're probably reluctant and think that the crust will get over cooked. As long as you kept the tin foil on during the light baking part, the crust will not get over cooked.

My three year old helped with pie crusts today. She pushed the button on the cuisinart. Even though she thought it was a little scary. I think I'll wait another year before she can roll out the dough. She can brush egg onto the crust and pour in the filling though. It's fun how much she enjoys just dumping the flour into the bowl. Do you have your kids help with pie-making?

Now the secret weapon. I told you the secret words, and the secret weapon is Cook's Illustrated pie crust recipe. This is hands-down the greatest, most perfect crust recipe I have ever had. I have tried every crust recipe out there, and I dare you to find a better one. And it's also easy to work with. It has some more secrets, like chilled shortening and butter.

Basic Pie Dough (from Baking Illustrated)
  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/2 C vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 12 T cold unsalted butter cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 6-8 T ice water
  1. Process the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add the shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds.
  2. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. DO NOT OVER MIX.
  3. Turn the mixture into a large bowl. Sprinkle 6 T ice water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 2 T more ice water if the dough does not come together.
  4. Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling. When you do roll it out, roll between two sheets of parchment paper for easy transfer to the pie pan. Prebake crust at 350 degrees.


Jan (Mixing Bowl Kids) said...

There really is nothing like a perfect pie crust is there? I hope you all enjoyed your Holiday!

Jenna said...

hi! thanks for visiting kid appeal. i definitely should have pre baked the bottom pie crusts on my 5 lower-sugar-but-still-oh-so-tasty pies, they were soggy. I ran out of steam and used some pre-made pilsbury crusts on two pies and everyone said the whole wheat (1/2 white wheat, 1/2 AP flour) crusts made with my food processor, chilled before rolling were much better! it does make a difference. cherry pie had only 1/2 cup sugar, the pumpkin a tad more at 3/4 cup. not bad!

amy said...

A regular size food processor is one thing I've wanted for a long time. Mine is only big enough to puree a half a can of beans.. not much else.

The Little Foodie said...

I waited a long time before getting my cuisinart, and I have never looked back. If I see a deal on one during the holiday I'll tweet it! I got mine for $79 last season.

cailin said...

Great post. This is actually about how I have been making my crusts for a while now. The food processor is the key. Some thoughts:

1. Cut the butter into cubes, then freeze until ROCK HARD. Then food process with the dry ingredients. This helps to insure minimal melting during processing. You also get nice clean pieces of butter for optimum flakiness.

2. I haven't used this recipe, but I can second the use of both butter and shortening. I have found equal portions to be best for tarts and pies with no top, as it prevents the crust from sagging during baking. The ratio in the recipe above would make a more tender, flaky crust, but I fear (though I haven't tried it yet) would not hold shape well with a steeper wall baking dish.

3. Lot's of pie crust recipes don't call for any sugar. This is a travesty. It makes a big difference. And it can be added to just about any recipe without changing the characteristics of the final crust. A little goes a long way, like the recipe above, just a couple of tablespoon.

I am now going to try this recipe to test mariko's claims. That is after we finish this lemonade diet.

IZ said...

The comment above is actually me, Iz, not cailin.

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